Christ-Centered Twelve Step Program of Addiction Recovery

The purpose of this article is to explain how the 12 Steps are used in everyday addiction treatment. This information can be beneficial if you or a loved one is in treatment. Although in their original inception the 12 Steps were used as a program for treatment of alcoholism, over time they have found usefulness in treatment for many kinds of addictive behaviors. As a result, it is not uncommon for court systems, treatment centers, psychologists, counselors, and the general public to use and hear the phrase “12 Step groups” in reference to individuals in treatment programs.

It is notable that the steps correlate very closely with scriptural principles. As in any program of overcoming serious and sinful behavioral issues, adherence to biblical teachings is fundamentally important. The Old Law taught the sinfulness of sin; when Christ came, He elaborated further on the heart issues of sin.

Looking at steps of recovery from a Christ-centered lens allows us to keep His teachings in mind while “working” the steps of recovery to overcome sinful behaviors and intents.

This perspective is explained in this document.

Although the original Twelve Step Group began in the 1930’s as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), a “more spiritualized” version was developed in 1991 at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. An individual named John Baker had been blessed to see his life start turning around after attending AA but was mocked when he identified Jesus Christ as his “Higher Power.” So, he sent a 13-page letter to Pastor Rick Warren, in which he outlined his vision of a Christ-centered recovery program. Celebrate Recovery was born the day Pastor Warren expressed his approval to John; “Great – do it!”

Today there are Celebrate Recovery (CR) groups in over 20,000 churches worldwide. The groups are designed to help not only alcoholics, as Alcoholics Anonymous started out to be, but they are open for anyone desiring help with a “hurt, hang-up, or habit.” Typically, a CR group meeting begins with a devotional time, then a large group lesson, followed by the large group breaking up into smaller groups. Childcare might be an option at a local church to facilitate attendance by parents. A church wanting to sponsor a Celebrate Recovery group needs to adhere to “The DNA of Celebrate Recovery,” as there are minimum guidelines and expected curricula that must be followed. Using CR materials in a format designed somewhat differently is permitted, but the group is then not allowed to label itself as “Celebrate Recovery” and thereby join the worldwide registry.

If, as part of your treatment, you attend a Celebrate Recovery group, or if you attend some other 12 Step group, this document can make you aware of the 12 steps as they were written in the historical context of the 1930’s or as they appear in a more “spiritualized” version. For churches and organizations that prefer the latter approach, including Celebrate Recovery, the steps will be similar to those found within this document.


The formation of groups known as “Twelve Step Groups” coincided with the development of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) in the 1930’s. Somewhat earlier, a missionary movement had become known as the Oxford Group, and one of its main tenets was that in order to lead a Christian life, one’s existence must be faith-based and God-controlled. The power of the Oxford Group’s observance of the teachings of Jesus Christ helped some alcoholic members to quit drinking, and the message began to spread that this group could help people recover from alcoholism.

In 1934, a former Wall Street banker named Bill Wilson found himself in a hopeless state of alcoholism. A friend and former alcoholic sought him out to give him some advice – join the faith-based Oxford Group. Wilson took his friend’s advice, which not only addressed his addiction to alcohol, but also prompted Wilson to commit his life to helping other alcoholics.

Dr. Bob Smith was the first alcoholic who Wilson helped to recovery. In 1935, Wilson and “Dr. Bob” founded Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron, Ohio. No “steps” were defined at that time, as these came a few years later. Both the Oxford Group and AA drew attention from alcoholics, and also from world-famous psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who is credited with saying,

“When a member of the Oxford Group comes to me in order to get treatment, I say, ‘You are in the Oxford Group; so long as you are there, you settle your affair with the Oxford Group. I can’t do it better than Jesus.’”

Now in its Fourth Edition, the book Alcoholics Anonymous (known in AA as the “Big Book”), serves as a textbook for AA meetings. First written in 1939, the founders explain their methods and tell numerous stories of overcomers. In Chapter 5 of this book, entitled “How it Works,” the authors penned, “Remember that we deal with alcohol – cunning, baffling, powerful! Without help it is too much for us. But there is One who has all power – that One is God. May you find Him now!” In Chapter 5 of Alcoholics Anonymous, the authors defined the steps they took in finding success from the grip of alcoholism. There were 12 of them, and they are decidedly based on Scriptures. Although the 12 Steps in their original form specify alcoholism as the issue from which recovery is needed, the steps have been modified over time to include other addictive behaviors, and many individuals have found the steps effective in aiding their recovery from a variety of unhealthy and/or sinful behaviors. Fundamental is the message that faith in God and submission to Him, leading to a process of repentance, restitution, and conversion, are all necessary in overcoming a life of addiction. There is no better message today for addicts and all those caught in compulsive sin.

The Twelve Steps correlate well with spiritual disciplines we believe are mandated for us in Holy Scriptures. The steps as written in this document, as a Christ-Centered Version, are presented with slightly different language than in their historical form. In the 1930’s, Step One stated, “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol….” Also, Step Three stated, “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to God as we understood Him.” The steps have now been extended to more dependencies than just alcohol, and now we proclaim that we understand God in Jesus Christ.

To view or download the 12-step packet, please click here.